With augmented reality being all the rage right now, it’s no surprise to see a camera-exploiting trio arrive on PS Vita at launch to further expand its Swiss army knife-rivalling feature set. In Cliff Diving, the alphabetical first of the three, you take control of Dave and help him become the greatest diver in the world through deft finger presses. Or, at the least, try to keep him out of hospital.
Make sure you’re in a bright area before laying down one of the AR play cards tucked inside the console’s box — a well-aimed desk lamp should do the trick. The rear camera, one of two VGA modules in Vita, needs all the light it can get to make the environment-meddling games worthwhile. Cliff Diving makes the card’s surface cave inwards and fills the resulting hole with water, giving the would-be champ a place to hone his skills.
Dave is actually a tiny chap no larger than a matchbox, so your table is the perfect place for his shenanigans. Numerous diving platforms sprout up next to the card, and you can move Vita closer or around the play area to get a better look from whatever angle you like. It’s quite cool, but nothing particularly new when it comes to augmented reality.
As Dave trots towards the edge of the platform to make his dive, it’s up to you to tap the X button as he reaches a target that marks the launch point, ideally as it turns green. The length X is held determines how far he will leap. At first there’s a big, wide pond beneath, so the distance is of little consequence, but as the areas progress the bodies of water become thinner and further away, their circumferences shrinking, meaning that you have to pay a bit more attention unless you want Dave to end up in a tiny pile of broken bones.
Once you’re used to this, tricks are added. Dave hurtles through hoops that float in the air, a button prompt hanging by each. The aim is, like the launch target, to press the right button as the loop turns green, though points are still scored if you hit when they’re yellow or orange, too. Then there’s the encouraging heartbeat bar, used to hype the little chap up before he begins to run for a dive, controlled with rhythmic taps on the rear touch panel as a dot moves into a central green area at the bottom of the screen.
It works but can be a little fiddly at first, since the system needs to be kept relatively steady so that the AR card stays in sight while inputs are pressed on both the front and back of the system. Switching between the rear panel and the face buttons also takes a little getting used to.
Scores are awarded for each jump, based on your timing and execution of tricks. The better you do, the more prize money gets added to your minuscule wallet. If you fail, the contents of that same wallet must be used to pay off Dave’s not-so-tiny hospital bills, but it’s quite difficult to not accumulate a decent wad. The cash can’t be used on anything else unfortunately.
The challenge incrementally increases throughout Cliff Diving’s hour of play as new areas are unlocked. While the starting basic cliff is a mere mess about, further settings such as tropical cliffs, icebergs and wrecked ships add to the challenge with multiple mid-air hoops (up to four), varied run-ups before leaps and different speeds of descent, so timing of button presses has to be adjusted properly for success. By the time you’ve reached the helicopter ‘cliff’ run ups are eradicated completely and the pool is a mere crack in the ground; a fast thumb is needed.
You’re also able to create custom challenges by using a couple of cards in conjunction. Place one card down like normal for a pool, the size of which can be altered with touch screen pinches, and then chuck another one in a higher position to form a diving board and you’re ready to go. Though this can make for some cool set ups, ultimately the gameplay remains the same.
It really doesn’t take long to complete Cliff Diving. After the core game’s 60 minutes or so you can go back to best your scores, but that’s about it — and it’s likely there won’t be too much room to improve by the time you’ve got to the end anyhow, as it’s almost required to go back and perfect jumps as you go along to reach the target scores to unlock new areas. For a totally free downloadable extra, however, Dave’s dives make for a fun little distraction that might warrant a quick splash every so often.